Letters from DOE per the request of Governor Jack Markell were sent to district school superintendents informing them, due to budget constraints SROs aka School Resource Officers will be pulled from Delaware high schools and put in patrol positions.This, of course led to the State of Delaware pulling back from funding police officers in our schools. Some districts, like Red Clay, have paid to keep them out of local funds; others simply could not afford that.
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting, obviously, school security--even court house security--has become a big issue in Delaware.
But, of course, there's no money in the current Markell budget to replace SROs.
Except that there is.
In order to understand just how badly we've been swindled, you are going to have take a trip with me back down memory lane even further than kilroy--back to March 2009, when Governor Markell installed former FBI agent (and, interestingly enough, high-ranking consultant/employee for MBNA, Hain, AIG, and the MTA, with BIG stock options to boot) Lewis D. Shiliro as Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security.
Shiliro replaced the retired (and largely ineffective) former head of the Maryland State Police, and the evidence is pretty clear (read my post at the link right above) that it was through connections with Joe Biden and MBNA that Shiliro got the Delaware job.
He inherited an office that had been fairly drastically cut, in budgetary terms, due to his predecessor's inability to the play the game "the Delaware Way."
Here are the numbers: in FY 2008 the Office of the Secretary (as distinct from the Delaware State Police, the Capitol Police, or other subordinate agencies) had received a budget of $9.9. By FY 2009 that had been cut to $6.3 million, and the Governor's recommendation for FY 2010 was a drastic slashing down to $2.2 million.
Enter Shiliro, an experienced bureaucratic infighter, who knows how to pitch budgets.
Instead of taking a dramatic cut, Shiliro's FY 2010 budget ended up at $8.9 million, recovering almost everything his predecessor had lost.
This budget remained fairly stable through FY 2012, when the state gave him $8.3 million, but in the next two years that budget literally exploded: FY 2013 the Office of the Secretary received a $12.9 million dollar budget, and the FY 2014 recommended budget is $13.5 million. Wow! That's up by $5.2 million in just two years!
Part of that money was to create a state-of-the-art radio communications system that no one has ever actually proved to be necessary to effective operations of Delaware emergency services. It was just one of the "revenue sharing" aspects of US Department of Homeland Security state grants that got mandated back when everybody truly believed there would be money gushing out of Washington DC forever to "keep us safe."
But I digress, and I promised you a connection to SROs in our schools.
Oddly enough, it turns out that it was not Governor Markell who began the push to take police officers out of our schools, but Secretary Lewis D. Shiliro. In his testimony before the Joint Finance Committee in March 2009, Shiliro recommended several revenue enhancements like increasing drunk driving fees, but he also advocated transferring the costs of Delaware State Troopers to protect our children out of his department:
• Ask schools to share more of the cost of providing state police school resource officers. It costs the state police $3 million, and the school districts pick up $1.9 million of that total, Schiliro said. If the schools could pick up 85 percent of the cost, he said, it would save the department $600,000.Subsequent conversations on background with people from the Secretary's office and at DSP lead me to conclude that Shiliro pursued a consistent strategy not only of expanding his budget, but also pushing off as many law enforcement expenses onto other departments as possible.
Of course, what happened to the SROs is that they would ultimately disappear from the State Education budget altogether, and the Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security appears to have been not just complicit in that disappearance, but one of the architects.
So when you drive up to a school these days and there is not a state police cruiser parked there, with an officer on duty, you now know who to thank: Delaware's Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security.
I'm sure there is a witty and ironic way to note that our children no longer have mandated police protection at our public schools because the man in charge of keeping them safe didn't think we could afford them while changing out radios.
I'm sure there is a catchy way to note that the increases in the Office of the Secretary of Safety and Homeland Security's budget (again, a distinct budget from any actual law enforcement agency) could easily have paid over the last two years for the cost of improving court house security, as Justice Steele has long been recommending--all without spending an additional tax dollar.
I just can't think of it.